8 tips for a healthy heart

May 14, 2018
Is your heart healthy?

Conditions of the heart and blood vessels like arrhythmia, strokes and angina are referred to under the umbrella term “cardiovascular disease” (CVD) and affect a huge number of Australians. An estimated 4.2 million – nearly a quarter – of Australians reported having CVD in the 2014-15 National Health Survey.

Heart disease can affect people of any age, however statistics suggest that our risk of developing cardiovascular complications increases as years go by. Just over half of Australians between 65 and 74 reported having CVD, compared to two-thirds of those 75 and over. For this reason, it’s even more important for older people to stay aware of their heart health and take measures to ensure a healthy lifestyle.

1. Avoid smoking

Live a smoke-free life for a healthy heart.

Smoke, both from your own habits or second-hand, has a range of negative effects on your health – and especially your heart. Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, damages vessel walls and stiffens vessels, inhibiting their ability to expand and contract as needed and increasing the risk of splitting. According to the Heart Foundation, the effects of smoking:

  • Double your risk of heart attack.
  • Triple your risk of stroke.
  • Make you 20 times more likely to experience angina.
  • Increase the risk of peripheral arterial disease five times.

If you smoke, start switching to nicotine alternatives to wean off and ask others in your life to do the same.

2. Be aware of your blood pressure

High blood pressure contributes to heart disease risk.

Persistently high pressure of your blood on the walls of arteries is a major contributing factor to heart disease. You can’t feel your own blood pressure, so it’s important to have it checked regularly by your doctor. Certain lifestyle changes including diet, exercise and limiting alcohol intake can help to manage your blood pressure, or your doctor may prescribe medication.

3. Control your cholesterol

A build-up of bad cholesterol can narrow your arteries, increasing CVD risk.

Bad cholesterol can build up on the walls of your arteries as plaque, hardening and narrowing the passages. Cholesterol plaque build-up can cause chest pains and severe heart attacks when plaque ruptures. Avoiding unhealthy fats, losing weight and staying active can help to manage your cholesterol. Talk to your doctor if cholesterol levels are a concern.

4. Deal with diabetes

Avoid high blood glucose levels.

If you have, or are at risk of developing, diabetes you need to be aware of how this can affect your heart. High glucose levels can damage blood vessels and cardiovascular nerves. According to Diabetes Australia, the effects of diabetes increase the risk of heart attacks and stroke by up to four times. Blood sugar regulation and medication can be used to manage diabetes and prevent further complications.

5. Eliminate unhealthy habits

Focus on heart-healthy foods.

As well as being one of the most important parts of general health, a nutritional diet can help to mitigate the risks of blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes. Cutting out excess alcohol, high-fat or high-sugar foods helps to manage heart disease risks.

6. Get active

An active lifestyle is vital in your later years.

An active lifestyle, combined with healthy eating habits, can help to reduce risks of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. As little as 30 minutes of activity a day can make a difference. Avoid sedentary behaviour by getting up and walking around every half hour or performing household tasks like folding laundry while standing.

7. Handle your mental health

Feelings of isolation can increase CVD risk.

Depression, isolation and a lack of support have been proven to be contributing factors to poor heart health, according to the Heart Foundation. Mental health problems have been attributed as both a cause and effect of CVD. Chemical changes in the body resulting from depression can increase risk factors, as can consequential behavioural shifts. Maintaining a strong social support system and reaching out for help when you feel depressed can be vital in keeping a healthy heart.

8. Invest in connected health solutions

Use connected health solutions to monitor your heart.

Sometimes, health is about coping with the hand you’ve been dealt. Tunstall’s connected health solutions can assist people living with chronic disease like CVD to manage their health, supported remotely by their clinical care team. Find out how Tunstall can help you proactively manage your health.